Eye For Film >> Movies >> Backtrace (2018) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
It begins and ends with a shoot-out. It revolves, as so often, around money. It's billed as a Sylvester Stallone film, but you shouldn't get too excited about that - the grizzled 72-year-old has a supporting role that doesn't really give him much to do. He's a scuzzy detective of a certain age on the trail of a missing man: Macdonald (Matthew Modine), who has been abducted from a psychiatric ward after emerging from a coma. Seven years earlier, Macdonald was involved in a heist which ended in tears (and bullets) due to a dispute over money. As the only survivor, he's the only person with the potential to locate the buried loot, but he has almost total amnesia.
Persuaded to take a potentially fatal drug to restore his memories, Macdonald gradually recovers scraps of knowledge, a process which is disorientating and causes him physical pain. Apparently determined that the audience should share this experience, director Brian A Miller shakes cameras around like a child having a tantrum and simultaneously plays with distorted perspective and blurring. Though Modine is perfectly capable of communicating what's going on through his acting - and is the only person making an effort in the whole production - Miller drowns his efforts in OTT visual effects. With leaden dialogue and clumsy editing thrown into the mix, large stretches of the film will make you want to hide behind the sofa for all the wrong reasons.
In addition to issues of physical discomfort, the film suffers from an unnecessarily convoluted and drawn out plot in which there's very little actually happening. Almost identical conversations are repeated without any thematic or character-focused justification. The characters are very thinly drawn, Stallone's just a fusion of different TV detectives, and this undermines attempts at emotionally gripping drama. The locations could be borrowed from any number of supposedly gritty procedurals and lower expectations even before anyone speaks.
Though the action scenes occasionally bring the film to life, there's an overwhelming lack of dramatic tension across most of the running time. Macdonald's plight is so overdramatised that it distorts the balance of the film, leaving us caught between queasy histrionics and boredom. This is a by-the-book thriller whose attempts to stand out have only made it more unwatchable.Reviewed on: 07 Jan 2019